Butternut Squash Risotto
For the squash:
- 1 small squash 450-500g approx
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground paprika
For the risotto:
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 medium white onion finely diced
- 1 medium carrot small dice
- 1 large garlic clove crushed
- 300 g arborio risotto rice
- 1 L vegetable stock approx
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 sprig fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
- 2-3 leaves fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
- 1 sage leaf or 1/2 tsp dried (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2-3 tsp vegan parmesan see notes
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Cut and peel the squash, scrape out the seeds and cut into small cubes, around 1cm wide. Add to a large baking tray with the olive oil, salt, black pepper and paprika and toss together until all the cubes are well coated.
Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning throughout to prevent burning. Once the cubes are soft, take them out and set aside to cool slightly.
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the diced onion and carrot. Fry for 4-5 minutes on medium heat before adding the crushed garlic. Sauté for a few more minutes until the onions are softened and translucent.
Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and stir to coat all the grains in oil. Prepare the hot vegetable stock in a large jug, add the apple cider vinegar and melt the nutritional yeast into it. Add the bay leaf to the pan before adding in the first ladle of stock.
Stir the stock through the grains and make sure the heat is medium. I prefer to use a spatula rather than a wooden spoon to stir risotto as it makes it easy to catch all the rice from the sides of the pan and stirs well as the risotto gets thicker.
Stir in a figure of 8 motion and when most of the stock has absorbed, add another ladle. Keep stirring regularly and repeat this process. When about half of the stock has gone in, add the other fresh herbs and seasoning. If your squash is particularly sweet you may want to add a little more salt here to balance it out.
It's important not to turn the heat up and to be patient so the rice cooks all the way through. Near the end you can add a bit more of the stock at a time, but make sure it is mostly absorbed before adding more.
In between stirring, pick out any burnt bits of the squash and discard. Then add half of the remaining cubes to a bowl or plate and mash with a fork to make a thick butternut purée. Add this to the risotto near the end of cooking and stir through well.
Spoon out a couple of grains of rice and test it to see how soft it is. If it's a nice cooked texture then your risotto is ready. You may have some stock leftover or you may need to add some more, it will vary so just adapt your amount as necessary.
Once the risotto is a thick, glossy texture with plump soft rice it is ready to serve, simply take out the stems and leaves of the fresh herbs and mix in the remaining butternut squash cubes.
Spoon into pasta bowls and top it with some black pepper or even vegan parmesan for a real Italian touch.
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter.
Sage and butternut squash is a glorious flavour combination which can be used in many delicious meals, including this one, however where the other herbs merely enhance the overall flavour, the sage can become as strong a flavour as the squash, and sometimes I think it's nice to let it stand by itself.